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Pruitt: Vols focused on Kentucky, not bowl game

Orange & White Nation

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt isn’t ready to delve into bowl possibilities just yet. Despite Tennessee defeating Alabama-Birmingham 30-7 on Saturday, Pruitt said the team has a long way to go regardless of the marked improvement over the last month.

“We have not come close to playing our best football yet and we’re running out of time,” Pruitt said.

“I don’t know how much better we played Saturday than what we did early in the year.”

Pruitt was critical of his team, especially the offense, at his Monday press conference. He said the team didn’t take make enough of its opportunities to score in the red zone and the negatives in the rushing game were a step back.

“Offensively, way too many negative plays, we’ve got to eliminate those,” he said. “We’ve got to put back to back good plays together, and we didn’t do a good job doing that.

“We’re not focused on making a bowl game. We’re focused on getting better each day and playing Kentucky.”

Tennessee (4-5) will face Kentucky (4-4) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

The Wildcats are coming off a bye week and have had to adapt their offense after quarterback Terry Wilson was lost for the season with an injury in Kentucky’s third game of the year against Eastern Michigan.

The Wildcats have used Troy transfer Sawyer Smith and wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. at quarterback.

The Vols have won 32 of the last 34 games against Kentucky but lost the last game in Lexington 29-26 in 2017.

“We have yet to win a game on the road,” Pruitt said. “That’s a mark of a good football team, and we’ll have an opportunity to do that Saturday night.”

Starting quarterback in limbo

Tennessee’s starting quarterback questions have yet to be resolved. Coach Jeremy Pruitt did not give an idea as to who would start this week against the Wildcats.

“We’ll see who we think gives us the most success,” he said. “It might be one of them, it might be two of them, it might be three of them.”

Pruitt said freshman Brian Maurer was a full participant in practice this past week despite not playing against UAB. Maurer suffered concussions in back-to-back weeks against Alabama and South Carolina.

Freshman J.T. Shrout started against the Blazers last week before giving way to senior Jarrett Guarantano.

Shrout was 3 of 6 passing for 34 yards against UAB. Guarantano was 13 of 21 for 147 yards with an interception and a touchdown.

“J.T. Shrout played well enough in the South Carolina game to earn at start against UAB,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt said Guarantano’s maturity gives him the ability to have a better feel for the game as it is going on.

“He’s a guy who can help glue a lot of things together and when he does that, we play better,” Pruitt said.

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